Non-agency radio creative can be consistently superior to the work the
major agencies produce. Dan Maier knows that, when it comes to radio,
small guys can do it best
Nobody in this country writes good radio commercials. You’ll probably be
sick of hearing this by now. I certainly am.
You see, my creative department has won 18 creative awards and picked up
countless nominations in the past five years. All for radio commercials.
The trouble is, when you’re based at a radio station in West Yorkshire,
you don’t exactly burn like a comet through the collective consciousness
of the ad industry.
But let’s start at the beginning. There’s a really irritating
presumption, manifest in the trade press, that radio copywriting is the
preserve of agency creatives. Agency creatives who can’t, according to
industry observers, write good radio ads.
It’s galling that radio creativity only ever seems to merit a mention in
such a negative context.
Every couple of months, another earnest ad biz bigwig surfaces in
Campaign, bemoaning the pitiful standards of ads on the wireless and
commenting on behalf of the industry that ‘we really ought to do
something about this’.
What’s really frustrating and upsetting is that no-one acknowledges the
existence of the creatives who do write great radio - in-house
copywriters at local radio stations and production houses who understand
and respect the medium.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that within every ILR station on these
islands lurks a toiling team of unsung creative martyrs, or that agency
writers wouldn’t know a good radio ad if it scooped out their eyeballs
with a rusty trowel.
Indeed, the majority of radio work produced locally is functional at
best. But then, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, and most employers
and - as a consequence - most local advertisers in the radio industry
have yet to see the value of investing in creativity.
Even so, the cream of non-agency radio creative - nurtured by those
media owners and independent producers who have seen the light - is
consistently superior to the kind of work major agencies deem fit for
the national brands they represent.
In which case, why aren’t national clients forming an orderly queue at
our office door?
Well, imagine you’re the marketing director of LargeCo UK and you’ve
decided to use radio for the first time. Who’s going to produce your
Will it be your agency of record for the past several years which has a
sound creative reputation for work in other media? Or will it be four
blokes in Bradford? You’re not exactly going to have to toss a coin, are
What if your agency has no track record in or great enthusiasm for radio
production while the blokes in Bradford have 15 years of radio
copywriting experience between them and have won two gold awards in the
past couple of months?
Hmm. Trouble is, you’re never likely to find out about that. Lack of
national exposure is a big problem for ambitious provincial outfits such
as ours. I believe such exposure would benefit not only the agencies but
their clients too.
While the tireless efforts of the Radio Advertising Bureau to promote
radio creativity through, for instance, the Aerial awards, may act as a
carrot to agency creatives, healthy competition from creative production
houses such as ours might just be the stick.
More beneficial still, perhaps, would be extensive co-operation. I know
that such co-operation - between independent radio specialists and a
number of open-minded agencies - already exists.
But there are still plenty of agencies and radio experts who could
benefit from each other’s expertise. And that could only benefit the
radio industry as a whole.
Dan Maier is a senior copywriter at the West Yorkshire radio station,